Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.
We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.
Our beloved Piping Plovers and Monarchs are going to be featured on an episode of Chronicle this evening. “Wildlife Worries” is devoted entirely to indicator species including not only Monarchs and PiPls, but also Whimbrels, tiny terrapins, and more. The show airs tonight at 7:30pm on Chronicle, WCVB, channel 5.
Several months ago, I met with the outstanding Chronicle producer, Sangita Chandra, and the show’s stellar videographer, Jennifer Platt-Ure. Originally Sangita was looking for footage of Monarchs and PiPls, but then decided to include an interview from a filmmaker’s perspective. The interview was filmed at Winthrop Shores Reservation as it was a convenient location, and also the charming cafe, Piccolo Piatti. It was a joy working with Sangita as she has a keen interest in wildlife conservation. The show promises to be wonderfully educational. I can’t wait to watch the part about the whimsical Whimbrels and turtles, in addition to the PiPls and butterflies!
Chronicle writes, “New England wouldn’t be New England without the shore birds, butterflies, and turtles that spend part of the year here. These and other local creatures are considered ‘indicator species’ that also help us understand the impact of habitat loss and climate change. Tonight we get up close to giant sea turtles and tiny terrapins, whimbrels and piping plovers, and meet the people committed to protecting them.” . Included in that group – a park ranger who raises butterflies, a documentary filmmaker, and high schoolers studying river herring. Many thanks to our videography team – Bob Oliver, Jennifer Platt-Ure, and Rich Ward and to editor Ellen Boyce. Hope you enjoy the program!
I so appreciate Heather taking the time to talk about Piping Plovers and Monarchs both. She asked tons of great questions and in a short period of time, we got in lots of information! Please see our interview below <3 !
For more about Hip Hop and the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, see here –
And, please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for a free all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly event, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, GO HERE
Monarch Butterfly and Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias vericillata)
One very important reason as to why we had a successful year with the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers is because of the consideration afforded to the Plovers by Coach Lattof, Coach Craig, and all the Gloucester Fishermen football team members. Early on in the the first years of the Plovers being at GHB, Coach Lattof made a point of bringing the guys over to the Plover’s restricted area and talking to them about threatened and endangered species.
We are so appreciative of the consideration given. The boys are awesome and the parents, teachers, and coaches of these great bunch of kids are doing an amazing job!
For the first time, as far as anyone can recollect, a pair of Piping Plovers nested at Cape Hedge Beach in Rockport during the summer of 2021. The family was not observed until after the chicks had hatched but we can make a fairly educated guess as to where the nest was hidden. I think, too, based on comparing many photos and film footage that the pair at Cape Hedge had nested originally at the Salt Island end of Good Harbor Beach. That nest of three eggs was washed away by a storm surge during the King Tide. There was a great deal of competition for nesting territory at Good Harbor during this time period and it is logical the SI pair would have moved north one beach. I imagine that to a Plover’s way of thinking, from Cape Hedge to Good Harbor is one long continuous beach.
One of the most fascinating aspects observed about the Cape Hedge Piping Plover family was the very young chick’s ability to navigate the popples. They used the larger rocks as slides, leapt from rock to rock, occasionally got stuck and, especially when they were very teeny, did mini somersaults.
Why did the Plovers go up and down the steep bank of popples countless times a day? Better camouflage was afforded at the top of the bank while food was more plentiful in the tidal flats. Insects could be had amongst the rocks, but super nourishing mini mollusks and sea worms can only be found in the intertidal zone.
I am currently in the midst of the daunting task of organizing six years of PiPl footage and photographs, from 2016 through 2021. I’ll be posting snippets from time to time. See below for some PiPl acrobatics and a somersault in slow motion 🙂
Conserve Wildlife NJ senior biologist Todd Pover makes a site visit to Cape Ann beaches, summer long updates from “Plover Central,” GHB Killdeer dune family raise a second brood of chicks, Cape Hedge chick lost after fireworks disturbance and then reunited with Fam, Great Black-backed Gulls are eating our Plover chicks, thousands of Moon Snail collars at Cape Hedge, Monarchs abound, #savesaltisland, missing Iguana Skittles, and Earwig eating Cecropia Moth cats.
New short film for the Sawyer Free Library The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!, Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting new short Piping Plover film, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the garden, why we love Joe-pye and other wildflowers, butterfly friends, Monarch cats in the garden, what is the purpose of the gold dots found on Monarch chrysalides?,Black Beauty came calling, Tigers in the garden, School Street sunflowers, Hoverflies, luminescent Sea Salps return to Cape Ann beaches, Petal Dancers and lemony Yellow Sulphurs on the wing.
Flower Fairies, irruptive Green Darner migration, mini glossary of late summer butterflies, what to do if you find a tagged Monarch, Painted Ladies, White-tailed Deer family, Monarchs mating, Tangerine Butterflies, yellow fellow in the hood, and Beauty on the Wing first ever live screening at the Shalin Liu.
Bee-sized butterfly the American Copper, Monarch conga line, Thunder and Cloud, abandoned Piping Plover egg, School Street Sunflowers, Monarchs migrating, quotidian splendor, Monarch fundraiser updates, collecting milkweed seeds, the Differential Grasshopper, Cooper’s Hawk – a conservation success story, #ploverjoyed, and nor’easter from the EP Lighthouse.
Bridges between life and death, ancient oak tree uprooted, autumn harvest for feathered friends, Monarch migration update, we have achieved our fundraising goal!, Harbor Seal pup hauled out, flight of the Snow Buntings, and a very rare for these parts wandering Wood Stork calls Cape Ann home for a month.
I hope you are doing well on this blustery morning, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees and wind chill at 19. I imagined these temperatures were behind us and am worried about that one little PiPl egg. Will it be viable after this cold snap??
This morning in my inbox there was yet another awesome email from Greenbelt, this time featuring Greenbelt’s commitment to conserving farmland, with a short video of the Grant Family Farm at Brown Spring.
Chris Grant was able to purchase the farm at Brown Springs because of Greenbelt’s Land Trust program and great use of West Newbury’s Community Preservation Act funds (CPA). The land can never be developed and will stay a working farm forever through Chris and Greenbelt’s diligent work to put it under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.
I am so looking forward to visiting the farm stand when open in June! For the latest updates from the Grant Family Farm, visit their Facebook page here and website here.
I can’t mention Greenbelt without giving thanks to Gloucester’s Piping Plover advisor-in-chief Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Greenbelt. Greenbelt does not, nor has ever, requested a fee from the City for their Piping Plover assistance. As you may recall, Dave is also Greenbelt’s Osprey program director – so there you have it, a multitude of reasons for supporting Greenbelt!!
EBSCO and the Law Office of Donald M. Greenough have generously offered to match, dollar for dollar, the first $5,000 raised in celebration of Earth Day.
Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.
This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.
There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.
All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry. Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.
We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.
Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.
The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.
To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.
Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls
Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)
Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland
The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).
Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets
Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family
A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds